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5 ways to support your mental and physical health

What is stress?

Stress is your body’s reaction to pressure, and it all starts when the stress response is triggered.

When you sense danger – like a car hurtling towards you – your brain prompts the adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

These powerful hormones then activate the sympathetic nervous system, which causes rapid physical changes that are designed to help you escape.

That restless, jittery, stomach-churning sensation you experience when you’re stressed is the infamous ‘fight or flight’ response, helping your body get ready to leap into action.

1. Give yourself permission to be you

It’s normal to want to be surrounded by all your loved ones and best friends at Christmas, but you also need to know how to show up for yourself and know what you really want.

Although this may sound like a cliché, it’s important to fully accept yourself and your feelings around the festive period.

Part of this is deciding what sort of Christmas YOU want, and not just doing things to please other people.

Of course, there will be some events you don’t necessarily want to go to that are ‘essential’ and others that are more ‘optional’, but it’s about striking a healthy balance to have a Christmas that suits you just as much as it does other people.

Remember, you are allowed to say no.

Want a year off cooking and hosting? Have a rest day Christmas. Want to go all out and extravagant with a Christmas ‘out out’ this year? Go for it!

 2. Set some boundaries

It’s normal to want to be surrounded by all your loved ones and best friends at Christmas, but you also need to know how to show up for yourself and know what you really want.

Although this may sound like a cliché, it’s important to fully accept yourself and your feelings around the festive period.

Part of this is deciding what sort of Christmas YOU want, and not just doing things to please other people.

Of course, there will be some events you don’t necessarily want to go to that are ‘essential’ and others that are more ‘optional’, but it’s about striking a healthy balance to have a Christmas that suits you just as much as it does other people.

Remember, you are allowed to say no.

Want a year off cooking and hosting? Have a rest day Christmas. Want to go all out and extravagant with a Christmas ‘out out’ this year? Go for it!

5 ways to support your mental and physical health

3.  Make time for self-care

Whether it’s navigating complex family dynamics or the pressure to make everything perfect, Christmas can be overwhelming.

As well as taking time out to manage stress, it’s also important to balance your sense of social obligations with your need for self-care.

Making sure you snatch some precious moments for yourself can make all the difference to your mental health at Christmas, whether that means:

  • Going for a walk
  • Watching a film
  • Taking a restorative soak in festive-themed bath salts
  • Meditating
  • Sitting in the garden in a warm coat for a bit of sun
  • Exercising
  • Pampering yourself, e.g., painting your nails, relaxing with a face mask
  • Unleash the relaxing effect of lavender essential oil to help you unwind

Whatever makes you feel good and helps you recharge.

Know you always feel drained at Christmas and want to change things this year?

It could be helpful to let friends and family know that you will be needing time out for calm and quiet.

This way, they know what the deal is and are (hopefully) less likely to come out with things like, “oh go on! It’s just one drink”, or “don’t be boring”.

4.  Help others

The mass consumerism over the festive period can cause Christmas to lose some of its magic.

Help give more (and not just presents) by helping out at your local homeless shelter, volunteering at charity events, fundraising for a good cause, or dishing out some home-baked minced pies around your neighbourhood.

Even just checking in on people you know will probably be lonely this time of year like older relatives and friends you’ve not seen in a while can make a massive impact.

5 ways to support your mental and physical health

5.  Don’t overwork yourself

As well as managing your social outings and emotional health, it’s also important to strike the right balance between work and life.

Your employer may be piling on the extra work over the festive period due, but it doesn’t mean you have to run yourself down just to meet extra company expectations.

Aim to do your job and do it well, but don’t feel like you have to stay late at the office or just work well into the evening while working from home every day.

You need time off and your employer should respect this, especially with everything else going on!

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